I went out to my favorite restaurant last night for what we had hoped would be the celebration of a Saints' victory, and possibly the NFC South title. Instead, it was to chew on the Saints' fifth straight loss at home and elimination from playoff consideration.
I arrived to find the restaurant full and the mood positively euphoric. No one discards the mask of tragedy and replaces it with that of comedy more quickly than we. Forget about the Saints season. This is the holiday season followed by the bowl season to be followed by the Mardi Gras season. We look to the future with optimism amidst reminders of past failures, and that's an attitude Saints fans may have to adopt once again.
Five straight home losses? Hadn't happened since the end of the Mora era and the beginning of the "Ditka debacle."
Four turnovers at home? Hadn't happened since Rob Ryan was on the sideline of the Browns as their defensive coordinator in 2010.
No turnovers forced defensively? You don't have to go nearly as far back to reference that. The Saints forced two in their five-game dome demise.
No pass rush? Matt Ryan dropped back 42 times yesterday. He was touched twice and sacked not at all. He could have played in a crystal flak jacket.
The snapshot that symbolized this season for me came in the course of defensive end Osi Umenyora's 86-yard fumble return for a touchdown on the final play of the game. Umenyora who had been on the receiving end of a few blowouts here as a New York Giant, had called the NFL"the ultimate soap opera." As he trudged to the end zone, it might have been his personal episode of "As the Worm Turns." As some of the Saints half-heartedly gave chase 50 yards behind him, it might have been "The Old and the Breathless."
No one predicted the Saints would have won just seven games this season. Seven wins and the right seven would have won the NFC South.
At Christmas time, we don't always get what we want. We don't always get what we deserved. We didn't get what we wanted out of a team that probably got what it deserved. But there's no returning it this season, even if we saved the receipt. As a Saints fan, you brace yourself for a rerun of your personal soap opera. These are "The Days of Our Lives" as we look for a "Guiding Light" in our "Search for Tomorrow."